Thursday, August 31, 2023
We all start somewhere, and believe it or not, our co-founders here at VeryBusy began their careers as photo assistants! No matter what your future holds, serving as a photo assistant offers invaluable experience that exposes you to opportunities and lessons learned. We asked seasoned photographer and curator Wesley Verhoeve to share his thoughts on what makes a great photo assistant.
What It Takes To Be a Great Photography Assistant
Alright, my friends, we're diving headfirst into the role of a photography assistant – trust me, it's way more than just being the sidekick. You gotta be quick on your feet, adaptable, and resourceful since circumstances on set can change fast.
It’s not just about lugging gear and setting up lights – it's about immersing yourself in the craft, soaking up knowledge like a sponge, and fine-tuning your eye for the perfect shot. You're a second pair of eyes and ears, anticipating the photographer's every move because you want to be there before they even know they need you.
Becoming a photography assistant is like stepping into the heart of a creative whirlwind. It's a role that demands a blend of technical prowess, teamwork, creativity, and professionalism. Here's a comprehensive guide on what it truly takes to excel in this dynamic role:
Tips for Success
1. Ask for Guidance: Don't hesitate to seek clarity if you're unsure about any task. Asking questions is a sign of confidence and care, not weakness. Remember, a well-informed assistant is an asset.
2. Reflect the Brand: Your conduct and communication should align with the photographer's style and professionalism. You are part of the team, after all. Maintaining consistency in your actions enhances the overall image of the project. Pay attention to their communication style and ways of interacting with the client and complement it as best you can.
3. Be a Team Player: Work collaboratively with other assistants and team members. The photography set is a microcosm of teamwork, where each individual's efforts contribute to the final result.
4. Pay Attention to Detail: Ensure that everything is in order and organized during shoots, and keep an eye on details that are easily overlooked like background noise or an area of the set that might make for a great shot. It's the little things that elevate the final result.
5. Research Skills: Assist with location scouting, subjects for projects, grants, etc. A keen eye for research helps anticipate requirements and enriches the creative process.
6. Effective Communication: Craft clear and concise emails and messages. Communication is everything in this business (and relationships). The ability to convey information efficiently is crucial.
7. Continuous Learning: Take a proactive approach to seeking out opportunities to learn about the things you're most interested in. For example, if you'd like to learn about making a zine and the photographer you’re working with is not currently working on one, ask about it. Advocate for yourself always because an internship is not just about how you can help me, but also equally about how I can help you grow. Learning never stops, and every experience is a chance to evolve.
Responsibilities of a Photography Assistant
As a photography assistant, your responsibilities extend beyond merely supporting the photographer on set. Your role spans various domains:
In the Studio:
Equipment Management: Assisting with gear setup and maintenance, ensuring that all tools are ready for the shoot. This includes batteries charged, film out of the fridge, etc.
Lighting Assistance: Collaborating on lighting setups to achieve the desired mood and effects. This can include posing for light tests.
Background and Prop Setup: Preparing the studio with appropriate backgrounds and props for different shoots.
Model and Client Coordination: Interacting with models, clients, and subjects, making them comfortable, and addressing their needs.
Technical Support: Troubleshooting technical issues that may arise during shoots.
Assistant Photographer: Capturing behind-the-scenes shots, documenting the creative process, and assisting with multiple angles.
Logistics Management: Organizing shoots' transportation, catering, and other logistical aspects.
Wardrobe and Styling Support: Ensuring that models and subjects are appropriately styled and helping with wardrobe changes.
Location Scouting: Researching and scouting locations that align with the project's vision.
In the Office:
Post-Production Assistance: Editing, retouching, and organizing images after the shoot.
Client Communication: Updating clients on project progress and sharing relevant information.
Marketing and Promotion: Assisting with social media posts, portfolio updates, and other marketing efforts.
Administrative Tasks: Managing schedules, appointments, and other administrative duties.
Research: Proactively updating databases, seeking out clients, project collaborators, grant opportunities, models, and more.
Supporting the Photographer and Personal Growth
Being a photography assistant is a two-fold journey. While you're there to support the photographer and the project, you're also on a path toward your own growth and development.
Every task you undertake as an assistant, whether it's setting up a complex lighting arrangement or organizing post-production files, contributes to your skillset. Each interaction with the photographer and team members is a chance to learn, not just about the technicalities of photography, but also about effective communication, teamwork, and problem-solving.
Furthermore, your time as an assistant should not only be about being a support system but also about fueling your aspirations. Use this opportunity to observe the photographer's techniques, learn from their experiences, and gradually integrate these lessons into your own budding photography journey. Allow the experience to shape you into a more well-rounded professional, someone who not only understands the mechanics of photography but also appreciates the intricacies of running a successful photography business.
In conclusion, the role of a photography assistant transcends the boundaries of a mere supporting role. It's an intricate dance of technical prowess, creative insight, and personal development. As you immerse yourself in this dynamic role, remember that being a great photography assistant is not only about contributing to the photographer's vision but also about nurturing your own growth, moving closer to your goals, and ultimately, making your mark in the world of photography.
Wesley Verhoeve is a photographer and curator based in Amsterdam and working around the world. He explores human stories with a focus on craft, curiosity, and community. His work has appeared in the New York Times, National Geographic Traveller, Washington Post, and other publications. He has conceived and shot commercial campaigns for LinkedIn, Hanes, Squarespace, and others.